Peter Smith: the woodpile, a shrine to personal laziness

Commentator Peter Smith
Commentator Peter Smith.
MPR Photo/Sarah Fleener

There's a woodpile in the corner of the back yard that's made up of big thick trunk sections from a huge oak we dropped a while back.

I split and burned all the little stuff in the fireplace, but I never got around to tackling the big pieces. Now the whole pile is laying back there, getting tougher and less split-able year after year. Becoming its own ecosystem.

Generations of rabbits and chipmunks have nested in it. Squirrels going about the business of being squirrels scrabble over it. Birds of all sizes flit through the area too. It's the Times Square of neighborhood wildlife.

It has changed the look and attitude of the surrounding plant life as well. The grass has receded. Tough little vines and broad-leafed weeds have come creeping back in. Even the nearby hosta border has begun to go feral.

On positive days -- when the glass seems half full -- I can look at the woodpile and admire any of a hundred bucolic little aspects and contemplation points. My inner Thoreau kicks in. It becomes a metaphor for something transcendental in the universe.

On less positive days it morphs into Item Number One on the list of chores I really ought to get done at some point before I die. It wouldn't be right to leave all that work to someone else.

The longer oak goes unsplit, the harder it gets, and I just plain let this stuff go too long. It's like granite now. I've been through two splitting maul handles and three chainsaw chains on it.

I suppose I could go rent a hydraulic splitter, but I'm afraid the wood would get the best of the machine. I imagine myself returning the splitter, standing there with the guy at the rental place shrugging, the splitter's gasoline engine still smoking, its hoses ruptured, the whole thing standing in a puddle of its own hydraulic fluid.

Will I get the woodpile split before I go? Or will the woodpile outlive me? I don't know. But I have come up with a plan that should buy me another decade or two to come to terms with it.

I'm going to go buy a concrete birdbath and a matching concrete Saint Francis of Assisi and turn the woodpile into a shrine where I can go and contemplate my personal laziness.

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